If you’ve read or seen The Lord of the Rings, you know that the series is brimming with references to mealtime. From the Hobbits’ second breakfast to the elven lembas bread, J.R.R. Tolkien brings this world to life through descriptions of food throughout the series. Beorn’s honey cakes are an admittedly obscure reference, but they’re a food that both develops a background character and brings some of the cozy flavors of Middle Earth into your own kitchen.Jump to Recipe
Falling somewhere between cupcakes and muffins, Beorn’s honey cakes are light, fluffy, and saturated with homemade honey syrup. Whether you’re enjoying them for elevensies or just as a simple dessert, Beorn’s honey cakes are sure to satisfy – especially if you’re looking for a bookish bake.
I ended up combining a few recipes for traditional Rosh Hashanah honey cakes as I developed this recipe. It uses no dairy, which would (per my understanding) make this recipe appropriate for holiday celebrations or for people who choose for eat in a pareve fashion. Beorn’s honey cakes do feature a small amount of rye whiskey, both in the cake and the glaze, but this ingredient is optional; the alcohol cooks out, so it tends to only add a small amount of spice to the final product.
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“But wait,” you may be asking, “Who is Beorn? Isn’t he from The Hobbit?” Yes, Beorn was the bear-king who assisted with the Battle of the Five Armies in the Hobbit. This recipe, however, comes from The Fellowship of the Ring. Gimli mentions these honey cakes while the fellowship is in Lothlorien, just after enjoying lembas bread for the first time:
Based on the way Gimli (or, I guess, Tolkien) uses the term “cakes” as a plural, I pictured this dish as a smaller cake, more resembling a cupcake. In my headcannon, Middle Earth seems like a place that would prefer glazes to frosting (less need for refrigeration), and where natural ingredients would be utilized as much as possible.
As was mentioned above, recipe is completely dairy-free and is based on recipes for honey cakes traditionally made for Rosh Hashanah. This recipe is pareve (contains eggs but no dairy products) and – the best of my research – is suitable for Jewish holiday celebrations. That being said, I am not Jewish; if you notice any aspects of this recipe that are not pareve, please let me know in the comments, as I’m always happy to correct my mistakes.
To make Beorn’s honey cakes, we will first prepare the honey cakes themselves. Then, while they are baking, we’ll make the glaze that will saturate the still-warm cakes.
For the cakes, you will need:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Brown sugar
- Honey – I recommend using local raw honey, if you can afford it and it is available to you. As you might expect, honey is the primary flavor that comes through in these cakes. Good honey brings with it flavors that reflect the terroir surrounding the beehives, and it will take this recipe from “pretty good” to “absolutely superb”.
- Vanilla bean paste
- Neutral oil – I prefer avocado oil, but you are welcome to use vegetable oil or canola oil.
- Orange juice
- Rye whiskey – optional. The alcohol itself will bake out and leave behind a subtle, spicy flavor.
For the honey glaze, you will need:
- Brown sugar
- Rye whiskey – again, optional but encouraged.
How to make Beorn’s honey cakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin or mini loaf pan and set it aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the vanilla bean paste, honey, oil, eggs, orange juice, and whiskey. Use a whisk or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to slowly combine the ingredients. The batter should be somewhat thick.
Once the batter is completely combined, pour it into your prepared muffin or mini loaf pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While your cakes are baking, prepare the honey glaze. Combine honey, brown sugar, rye whiskey, and water in a saucepan over medium heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir continuously, heating until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has slightly thickened. (If using the microwave, heat in 30-second increments, stirring between each heating, until you’ve achieved the aforementioned result.)
Once the cakes finish baking, carefully remove them from the pan and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Poke holes in the top of each cake using a toothpick and pour the glaze over the warm cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely before serving.
Your honey cakes are now complete! Feel free to top with a piece of honeycomb as you see in the pictures, or enjoy without the additional garnish. If you’re interested in more bookish bakes, you might want to check out my recipes for pumpkin pasties from Harry Potter.
Whether you made Beorn’s honey cakes for Rosh Hashannah, for Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday celebration, or for a full-length Lord of the Rings (movie or book) marathon, I hope you enjoyed them! If you made this recipe at home, feel free to leave a message in the comments below, or to tag @WhiskAverseBaking in your photos on social media. As always, you can click the “Pin It” button below to save this recipe for later.
Beorn’s Honey Cakes
- Muffin tin, cupcake pan, or mini loaf pan
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup honey
- ½ cup neutral oil I prefer avocado oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 4 eggs
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup rye whiskey optional; can substitute orange juice or water
- ¾ cup honey
- ¾ cup water
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon rye whiskey optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin or mini loaf pan and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the vanilla bean paste, honey, oil, eggs, orange juice, and whiskey.
- Use a whisk or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to slowly combine the ingredients. The batter should be somewhat thick.
- Once the batter is completely combined, pour it into your prepared muffin or mini loaf pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- While your cakes are baking, prepare the honey glaze. Combine honey, brown sugar, water, and whiskey in a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan on the stove). Heat in 30-second increments, stirring between each heating, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened.
- Once the cakes finish baking, carefully remove them from the pan and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Poke holes in the top of each cake using a toothpick and pour the glaze over the warm cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely before serving.